4/27/08

Blackballing Verrone hauled before NLRB

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which today is continuing its negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild for a new contract, has filed a complaint against the Writers Guild of America with the National Labor Relations Board.

The move comes as Hollywood continues to recover from the 100-day WGA strike that ended in February, coping with a shortened and challenging pilot season. Meanwhile, the business is bracing for another possible work stoppage this summer if SAG and the AMPTP cannot come to terms on a new contract. The current SAG contract expires in June.

Negotiations between the actors guild and the AMPTP have been ongoing since April 15. In an update to members yesterday, SAG focused on the concerns of the “middle-income” actors, who, SAG says, make an average of $52,000 a year. SAG argues that overall compensation is decreasing, and residuals and earnings are dropping when adjusted for inflation. SAG also argues that there are fewer employment opportunities as a result of changes in the broadcast business model, and that fewer reruns and the rise of reality TV have impacted the level of residuals received by actors.

SAG is asking for “reasonable” increases in minimums for all categories of performers and for major roles. The union is also seeking protection and compensation for product integration: “Actors are being forced to incorporate clumsy dialogue and action in television series and motion pictures more and more each season. We are seeking reasonable solutions, which include compensation and pre-approval for performing product integration. This is not the soda can on the table anymore. It’s scripted and is an integral part of the story and plot development.”

The AMPTP is not commenting on the SAG negotiations at this stage. The alliance did, however, issue a statement about its unfair labor practice charge against the WGA. The complaint stems from a letter issued by the WGA about writers—28 in total—who dropped their active union membership during the work stoppage. The letter from Patric M. Verrone, the
president of WGAW, and Michael Winship, the president of WGAE, said these writers “consciously and selfishly decided to place their own narrow interests over the greater good.” The letter goes on to say that these writers “must be held at arm's length by the rest of us and judged accountable for what they are—strikebreakers whose actions placed everything for which we fought so hard at risk. While others forfeited paychecks to stand in unity with their fellow Guild members, many who went financial core continued to collect salaries. Without concern for their colleagues, they turned their backs and tossed the burden of collective action onto the rest of us, taking jobs, reducing our leverage and damaging the Guilds for their own advantage.” The WGA website also lists the names of the writers in question.

The AMPTP maintains that the 28 writers “exercised their legal right to elect financial core status during the recently concluded WGA strike. As such, they are entitled to full coverage under the WGA's collective bargaining agreement, including the same wages, residuals, health and pension benefits and protections afforded to all members. By publicly naming names and encouraging people who have the power to hire writers to keep them "at arm's length," and saying they must be "judged accountable" it is clear the WGA leadership is seeking to deny employment to these writers in the future. That is a direct violation of federal labor law, and as the employers of those writers we have a responsibility to defend them and the rule of law in this case.”

- Mansha Daswani

(worldscreen.com)

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